The lovely Greek Goddess cast in bronze has stood quietly in the middle of historic downtown Enterprise for 100 years, but her message continues to be heard loud and clear. The people of the young city of Enterprise learned the lesson of triumph over tragedy in the early 1900s when the livelihood of farmers in the rural area around Enterprise was snatched away by a failed economy too dependent on cotton crops. The evil weevil invaded from Mexico and destroyed cotton by eating the silky fibers inside the cotton bolls.
Thankfully, Enterprise banker H.M. Sessions heard of Dr. George Washington Carver’s development of new products for peanuts, and convinced farmer C.W. Baston to try planting peanuts in 1916. The crop was successful. Enthusiasm for planting peanuts grew along with the market for them, putting money back into the pockets of farmers and businessmen. The boll weevil was credited with forcing the diversification of crops and expansion of other businesses that returned Enterprise and Coffee County to prosperity. As a tribute to the weevil and the people who refused to let it defeat them, businessman Bon Fleming led the community on Dec. 11, 1919 to raise the Boll Weevil Monument, the only statue in the world honoring an insect. Come join us this year to celebrate the monument’s birthday and a lesson that’s just as valuable today as it was 100 years ago.
December 11, 1919 • Part 1
The original dedication of the Boll Weevil Monument was conducted with great fanfare. It was a project conceived of and carried to fruition by Bon Fleming, an Enterprise businessman. The monument was revealed to be a graceful female form on a pedestal, whose arms held a water fountain above her head. An elaborate celebration followed the dedication, featuring a Peanut Queen and a Cotton King, that was attended by approximately 5,000 people, including groups from out-of-state.
December 11, 1919 • Part 2
Luther Fuller, agricultural agent for Southern Railroad, was the main speaker. Fuller filled in for Dr. George Washington Carver, an agriculture scientist who headed the agriculture department at Tuskegee University. In 1915, just as the boll weevil was arriving in the Southeast, Carver was inventing new ways to use the peanut and peanut oils in order to create a cash market for peanuts. He also advocated the practice of crop rotation to prevent depletion of nutrients in the soil. Carver was a primary inspiration in the decision by banker H.M. Sessions to buy peanut seeds and introduce the crop into Coffee County.
December 11, 1919 • Part 3
Dr. Carver had been invited to speak at the Monument Dedication, but was unable to attend after heavy rainfall north of Enterprise washed out a portion of railroad tracks between here and Tuskegee
May 6, 1949 • Monument Gets a Boll Weevil
Luther Baker of Enterprise fashioned a small boll weevil of linotype metal to be used as a replacement for the water fountain first placed atop the statue. (The Enterprise Ledger, May 6, 1949)
March 5, 1954 • Whodunit?
The boll weevil was stolen and never found. One of the many rumors was that it was later seen being used as a paperweight on an Army desk in Korea. (The Montgomery Advertiser, March 5, 1954)
May 1, 1954 • First Boll Weevil Day
A new copper-plated boll weevil, four times larger than the first, was unveiled during an event named the First Boll Weevil Day. Luther Fuller returned to speak for this rededication. It was a major event, with Delores Arnett as Boll Weevil Queen, a parade, barbeque for over 1,000, and attendance by politicians running in state and local races. In preparation for the celebration, the City Council decided to provide new paint for the Boll Weevil Monument. Pastel green was the color chosen for the base, snow white for the monument. The pool in the base was cleaned out and given a coat of light blue paint. During the renovation the fish in the base of the monument were removed to another location. The First Boll Weevil Day was planned as the beginning of an annual tradition. So far evidence has been found of six additional Boll Weevil Day celebrations, each held in conjunction with another annual event.
November 15, 1956 • Boll Weevil Day Combined with Fort Rucker Day
Boll Weevil Day was combined with Fort Rucker Day. The monument was represented on a parade float by Jacquelyn Dyar (Thompson), dressed in a white gown and holding a replica of a boll weevil over her head. (The Enterprise Ledger, November 15, 1956)
December 7, 1957 • Boll Weevil Day Celebrated with Annual Christmas Parade
Under the direction of the Enterprise Pilot Club, Boll Weevil Day was celebrated in conjunction with the annual Christmas Parade, featuring a short band concert around the base of the Boll Weevil Monument after the parade. (The Enterprise Ledger, December 5, 1957)
December 6, 1958 • Boll Weevil Day Celebrated with Christmas Parade and Farm/City Day
Boll Weevil Day was held in conjunction with both the Christmas Parade and Farm/City Day. (The Enterprise Ledger, December 11, 1958)
November 10, 1960 • Boll Weevil Day is Once More a Single Event Celebration
Enterprise civic organizations, with Fred Donaldson as Chairman, were responsible for the Boll Weevil-Farmers Appreciation Day. Thousands came to enjoy barbeque, a parade and speakers. According to a newspaper article, “Each year, the day has been observed but since its inception, it has been held in cooperation with some other observation until this year. Saturday, Boll Weevil Day is once more celebrated as an event separate and apart from other activities and observances.”
November 9, 1961 • Jim Folsom and Judge George Wallace to Speak
The Boll Weevil Parade, under the direction of the Enterprise Pilot Club, began the festivities of Farmers Appreciation Day. After enjoying a barbeque lunch, farmers and local townspeople heard speeches by politicians, including Jim Folsom and George Wallace.
November 1, 1962 • Governor Nominee George Wallace to Attend
November 1, 1962 – A more elaborate Boll Weevil Parade, with 50 entries, began the annual Farmers Appreciation Day.
December 11, 1969 • 50th Anniversary Rededication an Elaborate Affair
The 50th Anniversary Rededication was an elaborate affair, including a barbeque and a parade, attended by 8,000 to 10,000. Platform speakers included R. O. Fleming Jr., son of R. O. (Bon) Fleming, Mayor M. N. (Jug) Brown, and Moultrie Sessions, grandson of H. M. Sessions. Politicians in attendance included Jim Folsom and George Andrews. Boll Weevil Queen Jill Jordan led the parade. In preparation for its 50th anniversary celebration, the monument was painted an antique bronze color. Also, a fountain, lighted at night, was added. Prior to its repainting, the monument was a silver color. (The Enterprise Ledger, December 16, 1969)
May 3, 1974 • Boll Weevil Monument Stolen
Both the statue and the boll weevil were stolen. Only the pedestal and base remained. They were returned a few days later by Army Warrant officers, who found the broken parts along Highway 27. During the time that the statue and boll weevil was missing, City workers filled in the pool in the base with dirt and planted evergreen shrubs in an effort to beautify the statue-less base. (The Daily Ledger, May 3, 1974)
May 22, 1974 • Boll Weevil Monument Commission Established
Mrs. Rosa Quattlebaum and Mrs. Seroba Marsh, representing the women’s civic clubs of Enterprise, told the City Council that an extensive rehabilitation would be required for the Boll Weevil Monument within a few years. Mrs. Marsh proposed that a permanent commission be established to provide for the care and maintenance of the monument. Bob Sanford of the local metal manufacturing company ALFAB, in charge of repairing the monument after its recent theft, told the council that the monument could not take more damage. He said the body was made of pot metal and composed of some 50 to 60 pieces whose joints were leaded together. After years of exposure to the elements, the joints were coming apart. Council President John Lester named committee members to establish a Boll Weevil Monument Commission. (The Daily Ledger, May 22, 1974)
May 24, 1974 • Repaired Monument Unveiled, Historic Marker Unveiled
The repaired monument was unveiled in a brief ceremony. Fred Donaldson, president of the Chamber of Commerce, was the emcee. Other participants were Mayor Don Donaldson, representing the city, and Hope Lane, Dr. James Stanley, and Roy Shoffner from the Pea River Historical and Genealogical Society. Music was provided by the Enterprise High School Band Combo. On the same day, an Alabama Historical Marker near the monument was unveiled. (The Daily Ledger, May 24, 1974)
July 1–4, 1976 • City Celebrates Bicentennial
In Act IV of her play, “This Place Called Enterprise,” performed by Enterprise residents as part of the City’s celebration of the Bicentennial of the American Revolution, local playwright Jewell Ellen Smith created a fictitious patriotic parade peopled with the major figures in the Boll Weevil Monument story and in the early history of Enterprise. (The Daily Ledger, July 4, 1976)
May 15, 1981 • Boll Weevil Stolen
The boll weevil was stolen. According to an Enterprise Ledger article, “At 9:40 a.m. a small boy phoned Enterprise police to notify them of the loss with the words ‘the bug is gone.’” (The Enterprise Ledger, May 17, 1981)
July 23, 1981 • Boll Weevil Restored Atop Monument
A refurbished monument with a new boll weevil was restored to its pedestal. An antique marble finish had been added to the Lady. Work on improvements to the base of the monument continued for months. (The Enterprise Ledger, July 24, 1981)
November 6, 1981 • New Improvements Added to Boll Weevil Monument
Mayor G. C. (Don) Donaldson, City Clerk Carl Griffin, Councilmen Billy Bishop and John Lester and staff of the City Engineering Department gathered to officially herald the new additions to the Boll Weevil Monument. There was no public celebration. Improvements, supervised by Griffin, included returning elements that were part of the original monument: a fountain in the base of the monument and a spear-topped fence, similar to the original fence, installed on the top of the base. New elements were lights synchronized with the street lights and decorative wreaths around the outside of the base. The monument was restored with work done by Percy Peckham, Neal Weeks, and Glen Dykes of the City Engineering Department. The new boll weevil was fashioned by Dura Cast of Enterprise. (The Enterprise Ledger, November 6, 1981)
Over 100 years in Enterprise
As Enterprise celebrated the 100th birthday of the Boll Weevil Monument in 2019, let us remember that universal legacy. It stands the test of time.
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